The current political campaign media rhetoric, particularly by Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, has raised an interesting question: “Is he killing traditional media training?”
My very strong answer: “No!!”
Yes, like most media trainers, I have listened in utter amazement to many of Trump’s statements and was often stunned. When he declared in July of last year that former POW John McCain was not a hero and “I like people who were not captured,” I confidently told a colleague Trump’s campaign could turn the lights off. He was dead in the water.
The ridiculous statement tarnishing a war hero and a flurry of others has not seemed to diminish his popularity one iota. Even though Trump is a human gaffe machine he never apologizes. He is like General Sherman destroying everything in his path. He became the party’s nominee by systematically crushing 16 formidable opponents while generating record ratings.
Does that mean Bottom Line Communications and other media training businesses should now start offering “Effective Trump Media Training Techniques” to clients? Not yet.
Rather than ditch proven and successful media training guidelines (how to dress, bridge, never lie, work with the media, develop key points, etc.) we feel Donald Trump’s way of dealing with the media is truly unique. His outsized New York personality and take-no-prisoners approach is effective because it makes for good media interviews.
Trump is keenly aware that when a TV network (or newspaper, radio outlet, social media, etc.) interviews him it provides them with a ratings bonanza. As more and more media outlets today try to generate more revenues, he literally is gold to them. It is a symbiotic relationship.
It is a symbiotic relationship. He is despised by most of the media, but they breathlessly cover his every move. It’s like an employee who despises his boss, but needs the job for a paycheck.
“Overall this primary season, debates with The Donald have averaged 17.3 million total viewers,” noted The Wrap. “Without Trump, the events have brought in just 6 million total viewers, on average.” In other words, Trump generates millions of dollars in ad revenues for the networks.
The news media of today is big business. As a businessman, Trump knows the media needs him as much as he needs them. He doesn’t need to beg for exposure. He also knows the public’s trust in the news media is at an all-time low and exploits it. While Hillary Clinton is spending millions of dollars on advertising, Trump is able to get most of his exposure for free while often insulting reporters.
“We have a media that is so dishonest. These are among the most dishonest people you will ever, ever meet,” Trump said in Harrisburg, Pa., on Monday. “We are going to punch through the media. We have to.”
That quote was in the New York Post,which did not help its case for quality journalism by printing nude modeling photos from 1995 of Trump’s wife, Melania, a day earlier. It’s a mutual exploitation: the Post wants increased readership by running nude pics and Trump wants publicity by calling out the Post and others for lousy journalism.
In summary, traditional media training techniques are just as effective today as ever. They help level the playing field between an individual and the news media and enables you to get your key points across effectively. If you do a media interview without training and planning you are likely entering a gunfight with a knife.
None of us are Donald Trump. He is truly an outlier in dealing with the media.
His tactics may work for him, but would likely be disastrous for anyone else.